Jason M. Hough speaks the word on Zero World

Hough - credit Nathan Hough

Author Jason Hough. Photo Credit – Nathan Hough.

Throughout my recent blogging journeys, I’ve stumbled across common interests in unusual places.

Take author Jason M. Hough. I first came across his work at Phoenix Comicon in 2014, watching him on a panel about economics. I later picked up a complimentary copy of his debut The Darwin Elevator and enjoyed it, so I started following him on Facebook.

Upon which I discovered he was a fellow Freak, or fan of the British prog band Marillion. We chatted occasionally online, enough to discover more common musical interests. We also discovered that we’d been to many of the same Marillion concerts over the past 25 years. (They don’t tour the states that often.)

So it was a pleasure to chat with him at Kevin Hearne’s Elevengeddon before Phoenix Comicon in May. We shared some stories about concerts past and chatted about his new book, Zero World, which comes out tomorrow.

darwin elevator

Welcome back to Phoenix, what brings you back to Comicon?

For authors, Phoenix Comicon has the same benefits of a small literary convention. That is there is author-centric programming and plenty of fan interactions. But it also has the size and scope that a larger comic con brings. I’ve been to a bunch of comic cons, having gone to San Diego my whole life, this is so much more author friendly, I love it. They go out of their way to make it more welcoming for us.

If anyone loves comic cons, but are also big readers, this is the one they should come to.

How would you describe your storytelling approach?

I try to write “accessible” science fiction, so it’s a little lighter on the science and heavier on the fiction. They are very action oriented with plenty of character.

Your “Dire Earth” series attracted a lot of attention for a debut author. Can you describe those books for those who are unfamiliar?

The first series is a little complicated, it centers around people who are immune to a disease which has wiped out the whole earth but left one city inhabitable, and that’s Darwin, Australia. The same alien force that unleashed the disease also built a space elevator in Darwin, but no one knows why.

The main characters are immune to the disease, so they venture out to gather spare parts and other things that people need for the city. The books, of course, revolve around why all this is happening.

zero worldZero World goes in a completely different direction, however.

It is a near-future espionage thriller. The publisher describes it as “James Bond meets Inception.” It deals with a character who is an assassin, and his handlers have the ability to delete his memory. So they can put a marker in his head and then later they can revert him back to his marker, so he loses all memory of anything he has done since then.

So all he knows is that he’s good at his job. He doesn’t know what he’s done for the past dozen years. And this has seeped into his whole lifestyle – living with this lack of consequences.

It deals with the idea that you can only judge yourself by your memories, but others are able to judge you by your actual actions.

exodus towerOne of the things I liked about Zero World was that it was this futuristic techno-thriller, but it read like an old-school spy novel like John LeCarre.

Yes, there is also a retro feel to it. My editor says it is a time-travel book without any time travel. That will make more sense when you read it though, I don’t want to give anything away!

The ending certainly hints at a series, what are your future plans?

plague forgeI actually originally envisioned it as a standalone. I wanted to write multiple books that were set in this universe but that weren’t directly related to each other. Sort of like Iain Banks’ “Culture” books, where you can read any one of them and get a full story. But the ending does leave the door open for other things. I’d say it is a satisfying standalone with the potential for more.

Thanks for the chat. It’s always fun to discover a fellow Marillion Freak.

Thanks! You know I originally planned to use a lyric from (Marillion’s) Misplaced Childhood in Zero World, but I decided it was too obscure. I went with a Queensryche lyric instead.

Check back tomorrow for a review of Zero World.

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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